Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: A Gathering Storm
SERIES: Porthkennack #2
AUTHOR: Joanna Chambers
PUBLISHER: Riptide Publishing
LENGTH: 274 pages
RELEASE DATE: April 15, 2017
When grief-stricken scientist Sir Edward Fitzwilliam provokes public scorn by defending a sham spiritualist, he’s forced to retreat to Porthkennack to lick his wounds. Ward’s reputation is in tatters, but he’s determined to continue the work he began after the death of his beloved brother.
In Porthkennack, Ward meets Nicholas Hearn, land steward to the Roscarrock family. Ward becomes convinced that Nick, whose Romany mother was reportedly clairvoyant, is the perfect man to assist with his work. But Nick — who has reason to distrust the whims of wealthy men — is loath to agree. Until Fate steps in to lend a hand.
Despite Nick’s misgivings, he discovers that Ward is not the high-handed aristocrat he first thought. And when passion ignites between them, Nick learns there’s much more to love than the rushed, clandestine encounters he’s used to. Nevertheless, Nick’s sure that wealthy, educated Ward will never see him as an equal.
A storm is gathering, but with Nick’s self-doubts and Ward’s growing obsession, the fragile bond between the two men may not be strong enough to withstand it.
Turns out I didn’t have to wait as long as I thought for the second book in Riptide’s Porthkennack series. Cool.
While the first book in this series, Wake Up Call by J.L. Merrow happens in the current day, this second story goes back in time a bit. Back to horses and carriages, the Age of Reason, and where spiritualism was the going craze.
Sir Edward Fitzwilliam, still grieving the loss of his twin, is determined to prove scientifically that it is possible to contact the other side. After experiencing a vision of his brother the moment that he died in battle, Ward knows that spirits exist…he just hasn’t been able to prove it yet. It is with this intention that he moves to Porthkennack. The combination of sea, storm, and electricity should prove a perfect testing ground for proving his theories. He only needs to find a person who has the ability–or at least the possibility of an ability–to see spirits, to help him. Sadly, after a few mishaps with his attempts at hypnotizing a local man, his well of willing subjects has dried up. Then he runs across the half-Romani steward of a local estate in a compromising situation and Ward lets his desire for answers overrule his normal manners…and well, ends up blackmailing the man. He soon regrets it, though–and not just because it was a rather horrible thing to do–because Nicholas Hearn is just about everything he has ever wanted in a companion, friend, and probably even a lover. But his desire for Nick is being balanced against his need to see his brother again, and Ward has no idea which man will come out on top. Or if they will all end up losing in the end.
While I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect out of this novel, what with it taking place long before the events of book one in this series, I was really excited going into this story. I haven’t read a lot of Joanna Chambers’ books, but what I have read I’ve liked, and this time period has always been one of my favorites. Add in this whole question about whether ghost really exist, or if Ward was a little bit bonkers, and I thought there was a good foundation on which to build this story.
And it really was a great story. I’m not sure what I liked most about it, to be honest. The story was so damn interesting. Every time I thought it would take the easy route–it would hang a sharp left and shock and excite me. Seriously, there were points where I was reading and I thought “oh, it’s totally going to do X.” But just at the moment where you think it is going to fall into cliche, it surprises you and takes the story in a direction that you were not expecting. I loved that so much. I read a ridiculous amount of stories, and I’ve gotten really good at predicting paths a story will take, so whenever a book can keep me glued to the page anxious to see what will happen next…well, that is something I really treasure.
The relationship between Ward and Nick was also a lot of fun. I really liked how the differences in station were written in this book. Neither were completely what you’d expect, but also reacted to things in a way that was normal for them. Granted I wanted to duct-tape Ward’s mouth to save him from his occasional lapses into foot-in-mouth disease, but he did pull off the whole aristocrat persona without also coming off as a complete asshole. And Nick’s relationship not only with the family he works for, but with Ward and the various town’s people, was very well written. I was afraid the whole Romani thing was going to skew a bit too far into the whole cliche-bordering-on-caricature, but that never happened. All in all, this was a very well written story when it comes to the historical aspects of this book. Even the more fantastical elements fit well. (And while I refuse to spoil this aspect of the book for future readers, I will say I loved these parts of the book. Especially how it ended up concluding.)
It was also really cool to get a further look into the Roscarrock family that was introduced in book one. Both of these books have set up such interesting worlds that tie so well to each other, but can also exist solely on their own. I can’t wait till we get further into this series and this world grows. There is so much left to know and see.
This was just an all-round great story. I had a lot of fun reading it, and the way it kept me guessing meant that it was ridiculously hard to put down. It was also a good reminder that I really should pick up more stories by this author. I think I even own a few of them, so I’ve no excuse.
As far as the series go, these first two books have hit it so far out of the park, I can only hope that the next ones can keep it up. While this book can totally be read as a stand-alone, if the quality of writing is matched by what we have seen so far, it is going to be yet another series of must-read-them-all.